SACRAMENTO — The California State Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday (June 2) in the long-running case known as the United Auburn Indian Community of the Auburn Rancheria v Newsom.
While the Auburn Indians and a number of other California casino tribes continue to oppose the Mono’s 20-year effort to build a casino and hotel off Highway 99 near Madera, since taking office, Governor Gavin Newsom — who is named in the case — has been a strong supporter of the project.
Mono tribal officials are hopeful that this week’s crucial hearing before the state’s highest court will remove the last remaining legal barriers currently stalling their project. “This is the case we have been waiting on for a final ruling,” said a statement posted on the North Fork Rancheria’s Facebook page last month.
“The outcome of this ruling will be applied to the Tribe’s lawsuit and is the last barrier we face in order to start building,” the statement also said. “Tribal Council is confident that the court will rule in the Governor’s favor.”
The Tribal Council is expected to issue a formal statement later this week regarding yesterday’s hearing.
Mono tribal officials began their pursuit of the hotel/casino project in 2003 when they signed a development and management agreement with Station Casinos, the Nevada-based company that will oversee construction and manage the casino operations if the Mono’s plan wins approval.
The proposed 305-acre development site is located in unincorporated Madera County off Avenue 17 and Highway 99. The parcel is within the Tribe’s historic homelands.
A gaming compact between the Tribe and State of California was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Aug. 31, 2012 and approved by the state assembly May 2, 2013. A separate lawsuit opposing the proposed casino was decided March 14, 2014 by a Madera County judge who ruled that the state process authorizing the casino project was constitutional.
Since the Supreme Court of California’s decisions are binding on all other California state courts, this week’s hearing represents the last legal obstacle to the North Fork Rancheria’s effort to bring a casino to Madera.
The California Supreme Court consists of the chief justice — Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye — and six associate justices. All seven members of the court are appointed or nominated by the governor.
The court conducts regular sessions in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento; it may also hold special sessions elsewhere.
In its most recent year, the California Supreme Court received nearly 8,000 filings and issued 85 written opinions.
After hearing oral arguments, the Supreme Court typically renders a written decision within 90 days.